Cahier de Vacances
by Emmanuelle Dauplay, with music by Électrocrème
Planes, cars, drills, hammers, pets and children sound louder, longer, during warm, clear-skied summer afternoons. I can prove it to you.
I spent very many years studying architectural acoustics and atmospheric absorption. People talk about the weather a lot, don’t they? Don’t you? Well, I do. I have to. My specialty: assessment of sound growth and variations introduced due to the weather. You know that a small part of a sound wave is lost to the air through various physical processes. That is atmospheric absorption and it depends on frequency, relative humidity, temperature and atmospheric pressure. I calculate sound attenuation due to absorption, and sound growth due to the lack thereof, through precise and continuous measurements of different meteorological variables. I am patient, thorough and, when required, rational. Anyway, my conclusions show that significant sound attenuation is found for high values of relative humidity or temperature. You all have fresh souvenirs of early, damp, dewy hours, soon after sunrise, after the atmospheric moisture is reborn into small, condensed drops, and evenly sprinkled on any and every cool surface. The dew magically grants us with natural, organic silence, when we slowly emerge from our dreams and prolong the unconscious hours by writing them down. Consistently, relative humidity reaches its minimum in the afternoon, when temperature is at its highest. You see it now, endless summer days belong to the loudest season.
I remember my father sitting on his yellow tractor for hours and my mother hoovering the carpeted bedroom floors above me, while I was killing time watching videotapes of the semi-finals and finals of the June tennis tournament of Rolland-Garros, lying on our low-rising sofas in our smaller-sized television room. It was a brown room. I was eating milk chocolate-coated digestive biscuits, questioning the game of shadows on the tapestry, admiring the light tan on my legs. It was hot and I was waiting for the sun to go down, I remember, I was longing for the scent of dinner and for the following day, when perhaps I would enjoy the mundane pleasures of summer, that I was simply and remorselessly denied…deprived of the viscosity of the sand under my thin skin and purple toes, of the loud voice of the tireless ice cream man, of the sound of the waves coming and dying on the wet, mirrored surface of the beach, of the sight of tanning girls in slow-drying swimming costumes.
The sun, the lawn mower, the heat, the hoover, Rolland-Garros, melted chocolate on my fingertips and the smell of freshly cut grass all collaborate to form my subjective sensation of summer.
These are my own, private sensual associations. When the air is overwhelmed with sound, when it seems to attract, intensify, multiply and vivify all the sounds within it, at a time when those sounds were imbued with mutable, juvenile impressions and powerful contradictions, at a time when the sun was a symbol of isolation and loneliness, when the laughter of others reminded me of the absence of my own, when perspiration made my heavy glasses slide down on my nose, all the time, all day, every day for a while, a time when tennis balls resounded through the house as never before…when the scent of the sea and cheap monoï oil became associated with freedom and liberty of thought, of movement, with individuality, the sensuality of women. All those elements were compressed into a subjective experience. I was enthralled, somehow aroused.
Every future encounter with just one element of this combination would awaken the memory as a whole. And another element infiltrated the precious network, too. As I was finally walking on the beach inhaling the odour of the sea, on a young summer day when the water was still noticeably colder than the air and all scents sounded like a lawn mower, I found a tape, half-buried in the sand, to the left of my freshly scrubbed purple toe. As I listened to it—
I immediately threw it into my concentration of summer hints and applications. On the sand, a tape, my father, the lawn mower, the hoover. An object of plastic, a song, some voices, some other language, some other time. And I liked it, I grew fond of it, quickly. I formulated my own response to quality, added its indeterminate kind to my essentially dynamic reality.
Those people, unknown, alive, wherever, have become my husbands and wives, those with whom I share my feelings, they who will see, things, impressions I have long ago given up talking to others about. This memory that I can attempt to share and communicate but by no means transmit, this experience whose incoherence and confusion are here expressed through similar form.